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Olneyville Square begins extreme makeover

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Olneyville Square storefronts get spiffed up

The Olneyville Housing Corporation marks the first completed project.

BY KAREN A. DAVIS

Journal Staff Writer | Wednesday, October 20, 2004

PROVIDENCE -- In recent years, community developers, residents and business owners have crafted a vision of an improved Olneyville Square, complete with welcoming storefronts and bustling retail outlets.

That vision has moved one step closer to reality, thanks to coordinators of a storefront improvement program.

The Olneyville Housing Corporation celebrated the completion of the first building to be renovated.

The celebration took place Monday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside Hardware on the Square, 1911 Westminster St.

The event marked the first of 14 Olneyville Square storefronts that will undergo renovation to create a more visually appealing commercial district.

The "dramatic transformation" of storefronts includes restoring facade treatments, installing signs, replacing windows and adding decorative lighting, according to Bridget Dignan, collaborative project associate for the group.

The project transformed a former True Value hardware, with its grey concrete facade, into a cherry red storefront adorned with large windows and a prominent sign.

The hardware store has been at the site since the 1940s, but was recently bought by owners who embraced the idea of changing the look.

"We couldn't be more pleased with the new look of our store," said Malcolm Willis, who the business with David Dubois. "We've already noticed an increase in sales as new customers are discovering that we exist. Before the renovations, our store was easy to miss . . . That's not the case anymore."

Dignan said the first storefront was completed with a $7,500 matching grant from Olneyville Housing. The program is financed by The Providence Plan, Rhode Island Housing Resources Commission and Citizens Bank.

The push to renovate the storefronts topped a list of ideas developed three years ago by neighborhood groups as part of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, which aims to turn around struggling neighborhoods.

A five-year revitalization plan for Olneyville includes better use of the Woonasquatucket River and riverwalk, revamping mill buildings and attracting shops, restaurants and cafes.

The square is such a "significant part of Olneyville and one of the most significant business districts in the city, outside of downtown," Dignan said yesterday. "If it [the square] is in a deteriorating condition, it reflects on the rest of the neighborhood."

Dignan said work has begun to revamp three storefronts across the street.

"The Olneyville Storefront Improvement Program provides great incentives that leverage private investment in the Square," said Dana Farrell, the agency's economic development program manager. "We hope this program will encourage other property and business owners to spruce up their properties to make the square more attractive for pedestrians and shoppers."

From The Providence Journal

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I realize this is a really old post. What is the olneyville area like today, specifically Valley St? Crime? Walkability? Local Amenities? Is it safe enough for my wife to walk around alone at night?

Thanks

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Did RIDOT ever start the streetscape enhancement of Westminster Street and the square out there yet?

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Did RIDOT ever start the streetscape enhancement of Westminster Street and the square out there yet?

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I realize this is a really old post. What is the olneyville area like today, specifically Valley St? Crime? Walkability? Local Amenities? Is it safe enough for my wife to walk around alone at night?

Thanks

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I found it hilarious that O-ville Neighborhood association was anti-United Way.. UNITED WAY.. That is like being anti Disney (note: for the purpose of this post, "Disney is the wonderful world of cartoon gummy drop goodness that children adore" not the "Eisner run terrorist organization").. How do I get on this association.. I need to offset the stupidity.. If they reject United Way, a for profit biz will most definitely replace them, and I assure you will be "worse" for what this ONA thinks they want..

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E-mail Shannah Kurland <[email protected]>, the "Strategy and Development Coordinator" for ONA. She was one of the signers of the letter that was sent to United Way.

Here is their mission (from: http://www.grassrootsworks.net)

Olneyville Neighborhood Association's (ONA) mission is to organize low-income families, immigrant communities and people of color in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island in order to create a diverse, community-led, democratic and non-partisan political movement that wins economic, social and political justice. Some of ONA’s current programs include a Voter Registration and Education Program in partnership with RI Jobs with Justice and several AFL-CIO member unions, a Campaign against Displacement and for Community Controlled Participatory Budgeting and an Immigrant Rights and Living Wage Campaign.

Note: A self-described political movement, not a neighborhood association as one would typically perceive. I doubt they'd be interested in working with you on noise complaints, street trees, and park clean-up days, but you can ask.

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I am 12.5% native american.. Will the O'ville Neighborhood Association accept me? I don't see the destruction of a diverse neighborhood.. I see a city trash program succeeding, FHA loans (and unfortunately creative finacing, we'll see how that turns out) making home ownership of a multifamily house with added income possible for lower income people who want a nice place to live.. I see foot patrol policing working, officers getting to know residents..

I see the removal of slum landlords being replaced by a predominantly Guatamalan owner occupied base.. I don't have stats, but I'm sure they can be found.. O'ville was something like 89% non-owner occupied in 2000. I bet it is about 70% non-owner occ now.. 19% does not seem like a lot but on this topic it is a sea change.. And you see it in the pride of ownership..

I see places like Mexico Garibaldi, Chilangos Taqueria and Mi Guatamala attracting white middle class patrons who aren't as fearful now.. I see a thriving retail base in Eagle Square with a fledgling commercial space market.. I do see some loft condo residents.. It is sad to see Eastern Butcher Block have a 70% off closing sale.. But the space is not optimally used now.. I doubt that that "artist community" has sold any $600k work/lives.. hehe..

The ALCO project is shaping up to look like a adaptive reuse college campus.. Which, by the way, would have been a good idea for the space, except for the lack of tax income..

I see Valley Street vibrant, and O'Ville Square less unsightly with new signs.. I can't wait for Cuban Revolution to come in.. It would be nice if Fidas got a facelift.. I see people actually using Donigan Park for use other than drug transactions.. I only see one regular prostitute walking, down from many.. I actually admire her persistance.. LOL ;)

Manton Ave is getting some minor makeovers.. But its still unsightly.. Below Manton, you can now see a budding assisted living community thats in no way resembles "the projects".. Kudos to that project.. Atlantic Mills I think it is called, looks like a bunch of new 2 fams, but it is low income housing.. No stigma for neighbors or residents.. Which Manton Heights by the way, with the new Hess Station well lit, is less dark and threatening, and in my opinion directly relates to increased business for Chilangos..

So I ask this "Neighborhood Association".. What are you fighting for? Everything is better now.. The area is clean, crime is down, pride is up.. It was terrible before.. Now, you have people asking is it ok for me and my wife to walk/live there.. You see, this is a transformation of perception.. As I said was the next step in this process.. I kind of wish I did a documentary of this.. Would have been fascinating TV..

By the way, I just realized that foxpointer's pic is Che Peter Griffin.. Hilarious..

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